Tougher income eligibility

Daycare operators like the Carol Robertson Center that run full-day programs by combining state funds for subsidized care with federal funds for Head Start are facing a new rule that is squeezing out many families.

Demand, but no money, for universal preschool

Now, Illinois is playing catch up, and it’s playing hard. Not since the Chicago School Reform Act was passed in 1988 have so many diverse groups rallied around a single issue in Springfield. Early childhood advocacy groups have joined forces with child care providers, school districts, state board of education officials, business leaders, even police organizations to map out an early childhood education system and build the public will to make it happen.

Navigating the maze

The tuition-based preschool program at Blaine Elementary has been a blessing for Beth Ryan, the mother of a 4-year-old with special needs. Chicago Public Schools launched full-day, tuition-based preschools two years ago to lure middle class families to enroll their children in district schools. Currently, there are 16 programs serving 360 students.

How they were helped

Daycare operator Charlotte Manteaw got advice that solved a problem plaguing one of the seven children she cared for.

Leadership, trust make the difference

In 1996, Chase and McNair elementary schools were both placed on probation. Chase got off probation in 1997, but McNair is still on. These two schools, chosen by CATALYST, are examples of a pattern identified by researcher Jennifer O’Day: Test scores rose more sharply at schools where teachers trusted their colleagues, collaborated and took responsibility for all students—not just their own.

Early education needed to close learning gap

Over a 2½-year period, researchers recorded naturally occurring conversations in the homes of families with 1- and 2-year-old children. Not surprisingly, the children whose parents talked to them more developed bigger vocabularies and were more able to think conceptually-skills that make it easier to learn how to read.

Mom takes slow but steady route toward a teaching certificate

Today, Leticia Barrera is an education organizer for the Logan Square Neighborhood Association (LSNA) and one of several dozen parents from the area who are studying to become bilingual teachers through a program organized by LSNA. Called Nueva Generación, the program holds afternoon classes at the Monroe Community Center in the Monroe School Annex.

Pre-preschool an option for children birth to 3

The federal Early Head Start Program funds programs run by 23 community-based organizations that serve more than 2,100 families in Illinois.

Now, some advocates are pushing for a universal-access program for children in this age group, too. “We would be remiss to overlook these important years,” says Samuel Meisels, president of the Erikson Institute.

Better teachers, more space, easier access for parents

Teachers in pre-kindergarten programs funded by the state, as well as all preschool teachers in the public schools, are required to have a bachelor’s degree and a Type 04 early childhood teaching certificate. To earn the certificate, teachers must pass a basic skills test, clock 100 hours of observation in an early childhood classroom and complete a supervised student teaching stint.

Fiscal woes threaten access to universal preschools

By September 1995, the nation’s first universal access pre-kindergarten program officially opened to all 4-year-olds, regardless of family income. Enrollment that year was 44,000—nearly three times higher than it had been the previous school year. By the 2002-03 school year, 65,000 children were enrolled, and the program’s annual budget was $128 million.

Universal preschool

More than a third of the state’s 3- and 4-year-olds—about 148,500 children—are enrolled in government-funded preschool or child care programs. Of those, 56,000 are in state pre-k, 36,400 are in federal Head Start programs and 55,500 are in state-subsidized child care.

LSC role important in principal selection

We were disappointed the article did not discuss why LSCs have this responsibility, or solicit more LSC perspectives on the challenges of principal leadership. Too often, the relationship between LSCs and principals is negatively stereotyped as “political” without seriously examining the reasons the legislature gave LSCs this authority in the first place.

Comings & Goings

Four new small schools will open this fall at Bowen, Orr and South Shore high schools, all of which began the process of breaking up into smaller units this year. Last fall, these schools created five small schools with grants from the Chicago High School Redesign Initiative, which is funded by local foundations and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Illinois preschool universe

Population of 3- and 4-year-olds: 356,000



Preschool proposal

Key Elements

Determining eligibility

To qualify for state-subsidized child care, parents must:

  • Work, attend school or enroll in a training program
  • Earn no more than 50 percent of 1997 state median income
  • Co-pay for the program based on a sliding scale

To qualify for Head Start, a family must: